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October 9, 2007

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PNP harasses Kalinga elders, peacepact holders and CPA Staff in Mt. Province

BONTOC, MT. PROVINCE-On October 7, 2007, around 2: 26 PM, elders, peacepact holders and youth from Basao, Tinglayan, Kalinga; representatives of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance regional secretariat, and its Mt. Province chapter; were flagged down by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) here under SP04 Pablo T. Undalos, Bontoc Chief of Police, in what appeared to be an overkill "COMELEC gunban checkpoint" along the Sukit national highway.

The delegation had just come from the Basao-Tonglayan bodong in Tonglayan that started October 5 and ended October 7. The bodong that took place in Tonglayan is in fact a historic event that ended a 38-year tribal conflict. The governor knew about this event and even sent representatives from the Office of the Governor, including a representative from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to witness the bodong. The elders from Basao are members of the Binodngan Peoples Organization (BPO), a federation of tribes affiliated with the CPA. Representatives of elders organization MAITUD (Movement for Inter Tribal Unity and Development) also participated in the said activity. The activity was actually simultaneous with another elders gathering in Kalinga, the 6th BPO General Assembly that was attended by the other elders and youth of Basao.

At the checkpoint, around 15 armed elements of the Provincial Mobile Group and the municipal police carrying M-14s and M-16s ordered the delegation to alight from the two jeeps, and conducted an illegal search of the belongings therein, with their arms aimed at the vehicles. Some of the elders and youth were even illegally searched. The vehicle used by the CPA Regional Secretariat and the CPA-Mt. Province was especially searched, where doors were immediately opened, and bags were ordered open even with the refusal of the passengers, and their assertion that the PNP did not have any right to do so. The vehicle's front seat was even pushed over to check behind it. The passengers repeated appeals that the personal belongings not be searched was blatantly ignored by the PNP. Undalos was in civilian attire while giving orders, while one PNP element, identified to be Jessie Lopez, also in civilian attire, took pictures of the passengers. Another unidentified PNP element aggressively took pictures and obviously, accidentally blurted out to one of the CPA secretariat, "nai-tip kayo gamin nga adda ti sabali nga karga yu." Undalos kept saying that the whole incident was "routinary" as a part of the Comelec gunban. It was later found out that the order came from PNP Assistant Provincial Director William Viteno as the two vehicles allegedly contained guns. Such accusation is highly deplorable, as it was merely on hearsay that the operation was carried out. It reflects the inefficiency of the PNP's policework, basing its actions on hearsay. Indeed, the whole affair was an overkill. Believing that the two jeeps carried guns, the PNP elements at the checkpoint could have easily staged an ambush or fired away at the passengers.

The information on the alleged 'tip' only meant to politically harass, persecute and malign the organizations that took part in the activity. The incident is part of the continuing, not to mention contemptible ploy to discredit and hound legal progressive organizations.

What the PNP did is a shame to the elders and peacepact holders who have come to build peaceful relations with another tribe in the province. Some of the elders and youth were not only harassed, but traumatized by the incident, especially after coming from an important event that respects and promotes inter-tribal peace. In fact, the whole incident was obviously propped up to create a situation that would suit whatever ill intentions the PNP had. They definitely earned the ire and fury of our indigenous elders for their disrespect and arrogance. For 38 long years the PNP or government could not even resolve the tribal conflict between those two tribes if not for the mediation of BPO and MAITUD, and here comes the PNP displaying arrogance and violating human rights immediately after the forging of the bodong. We strongly condemn the PNP for its utter disrespect to our indigenous elders and peacepact holders, including the integrity of the bodong that had just taken place. We strongly condemn the PNP for its gross disrespect of human rights.

Command responsibility must be invoked in this incident so that proper penalties be carried out accordingly to the authorities and their subordinates responsible for this gross disrespect and violation of human rights. We call on the provincial government of Mt. Province to join us in condemning this incident, as we heighten our demand to stop militarization in Mt. Province and all Cordillera provinces. ***

October 9, 2007

Windel Bolinget
CPA Secretary General

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